It was quite a year for Ryan Gray, but best lies ahead
Ryan Gray will look back pretty fondly at 2013.
Eleven wins at various Pro Rodeo Cowboy’s Association events, a return to the National Finals in Las Vegas and a No. 4 ranking in the wild world of bareback bronc riding – the profession of doing his best to hang on for eight seconds to a whirling dervish weighing nearly a half ton.
But he’s really got his eyes on 2014, and rodeo has nothing to do with things.
Sometime in the next few days, or even perhaps already, Cheney High grad Gray and wife Lacy will welcome their new baby to the world.
And like the unpredictable world of rodeo, the couple does not know the gender. Same with the name, which will be decided upon and revealed at the time the new addition arrives.
“We’re waiting to find out until the last second,” Gray said.
As for the changes the new he or she Gray will present to the couple – who spend the winters in Petersburg, Texas, a town of 1,200 northeast of Lubbock, and summers at their new digs in rural Lincoln County – there are none from the logistical side.
“It will change things a little bit but I’m kind of a stay-at-home kind of guy,” Gray said. “I’m going to be home all winter and all spring until about the first of June.”
Of course that doesn’t at all answer the nebulous world of the unknown that all new parents experience once that bundle of joy arrives home.
Gray returned to prominence on the PRCA tour earning over $155,000 when his National Finals winnings were added in, this after failing to qualify for the NFR in 2012 after a sixth place in the world standings in 2011. That came on the heels of seeing his world championship vanish in 2010 with a serious injury in Round-2 of the NFR.
After a slow start in Las Vegas in 2013 with three rounds where he failed to score – tempered by a runner-up in Round-4 – Gray got his first NFR win since 2011 with an 85.5 point ride in Round-9 straddling Smack Daddy worth over $18,000.
But the thrill of victory came between zero-point rides in Round 8 and 10, dropping him to 10th in this year’s NFR.
“Overall it was pretty solid but I didn’t have the week I wanted to have there,” Gray said. “I wanted to have a chance at the old buckle.”
At the end of the day he was happy with what he did win, the 30-year-old Gray said. “There were a couple I didn’t draw as good and a couple I didn’t ride as good,” Gray said. “Overall I felt pretty good about it.”
Except four Round-8 where he had trouble with the aptly named Comanchero.
“The heel of your boots has to be over the point of their shoulder the first jump out,” Gray explained. “It’s a judgment call by the official in the arena; sometimes it’s obvious and sometimes it’s not.”
With bonus money paid out to the top eight finishers in bareback, it probably cost him $20,000 to $30,000 Gray figures.
“That’s part of rodeo, we do it all year long and then 10 in a row, you’ve got to be consistent all week,” Gray said. “You make a small mistake like that, it can cost you.”
Ten straight days is intense, indeed, but nothing really new for Gray, he explained.
“During the heat of July we’re getting on at least one (horse) a day, 10 days in a row – sometimes two or three a day Fourth of July week – we’re getting on something every day and sometime hit two or three rodeos a day.”
But there’s a difference come time for the NFR which pairs the best cowboys and the worst horses. “You’re getting on 10 of the rankest horses in a row,” Gray said.
Bar Bandit bounced Gray in Round-1, penniless. He won $1,500 on Molly in Round-2 but on board Faded Jeans the next day, he got nada. Kattle Katie was maybe unwittingly kind in Round-4, a runner-up 84.5 ride good for $14,700. His fifth-round on Pillow Talk was a nightmare no money outing.
On Jesse’s Girl Gray pocketed another $1,500 and a sixth place tie starting the second half of competition and was third with an 80-point effort in Round-7 riding Times Up to an $11,100 payday. Then came Comanchero in the eighth and the aptly named Hard Times, the 69.5 point ride worth no money.
Once baby arrives, Gray will spend most of January doing dad duty. His first rodeo for 2014 is Jan. 24 at Fort Worth, then San Antonio Feb. 22 just to stay in riding shape.
“Then it will be some rodeoing and raising this baby,” Gray said. “It will be fun.”
Paul Delaney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.